In this Torah portion, the Levites prepare to serve in the Sanctuary and the Israelites receive instructions regarding Pesach. They travel from Sinai and complain to God on several occasions, provoking God’s anger. Miriam and Aaron speak against Moses.
Shining through the sedra we see the democratic values that are at the core of Judaism. Values that involve personal responsibility; values that the People need time to get used to having been slaves in Egypt for so long. Here are four examples.
Sadly, the Torah’s depths can go unnoticed all too easily. I do not mean this in any mystical sense. Rather, I mean that the Torah contains many literary dimensions that can be missed if its underlying symbolism and rhetoric is left unexplored.
In this week’s sidra we are told that when the Jewish people wage a war against an enemy, trumpets are to be blown as a warning. However, we are also told in the next verse, that trumpets are to be blown on festivals and Rosh Chodesh (new moon) as part of the celebration of the day. This appears to be quite unusual and perhaps the equivalent today would be using the air raid siren in Israel which alerts the nation to incoming missiles. This would not be used as a symbol of joy as it in fact creates a state of panic/worry to those who hear it.
This week’s Haftorah records the prophesies of Zechariya to Yehoshua the Kohain Gadol.
A year and a month after the exodus from Egypt, the Israelites are on their journey to their homeland, and things seemto fall apart. Spurred on by the “mixed multitude” who joined them when they left Egypt, the people begin a series of bitter complaints to Moshe about food. “If only we had meat. We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost..…but now we have lost our appetite, we never see anything but this manna”. This appalling show of ingratitude brings about the worst crisis in Moshe’s life.
In BeHa’alotcha, the Torah resumes its narrative of the travels of the Israelites through the wilderness of Sinai. As they journey to their homeland, it becomes clear that an ideal community is hardly a reality. Far from travelling in a utopian like setting, they begin a series of bitter complaints about food and other matters. This brings about the worst crisis in Moshe’s life and he must now speak with God to learn how to accommodate these new requests. His reaction is nothing short of despair, to the extent that he prays for his death.
Today’s Sidra begins on a note of joy and happiness. It focuses on the light of the Menorah and tells us that Aaron was commanded to light its lamps so that six flames, three on each side, should be directed towards the central flame. According to another interpretation, he was instructed to ensure that all the seven flames were directed towards the front of the Menorah, so as to provide illumination for the table which stood opposite it. The lighting of the Menorah was a most fitting finale to the dedication of the Tabernacle.
This week’s sidrah focuses on the lighting of the menorah, which was done on a daily basis by Aharon, the Kohen Gadol (high priest). There are a number of lessons which can be learnt from such a simple act, to be applied to our everyday lives.